The SEC-Big East Challenge premiered last Thursday night in South Bend. Notre Dame took on #8 seeded Kentucky in front of their boisterous home crowd. The Fighting Irish played a tremendous game on both ends of the floor and completely controlled the tempo leading them to a 64-50 victory.
The junior backcourt tandem of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant controlled the Irish’ offense. Atkins lead the Irish attack with 16 points and 4 assists and Grant added 13 points and 6 assists. Preseason All-Big East big man Jack Cooley had another double-double, pouring in 13 points and grabbing 11 boards, really putting pressure on Kentucky’s bigs all night.
Kentucky, with their always talented freshmen class were unable to get going all night. Notre Dame’s defense held Kentucky to their lowest percentage of the season (40.4%). The Wildcats’ two leading scorers on the season Archie Goodwin (19.0) and Alex Poythress (18.4) scored only 3 points each.
Notre Dame has been impressive in the early weeks of the season with a 7-1 record. Their only loss was to a good St. Joseph’s team in overtime at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament. The Irish’s seven wins have all been by double digit margins.
The Irish have a very experienced basketball team and it shows in their play. They play with great poise and execute very well on both ends of the floor. With Cooley leading the Big East in rebounding (11.3 rpg), the great guard play from Atkins and Grant, a big veteran frontcourt, and emergence of freshman guard Cameron Biedscheid, the Irish are on their way to being one the Big East’s best teams. The Kentucky victory moved Notre Dame into the national rankings at #22.
John Cavaliere is a Big East Correspondent and a Scout for NetScouts Basketball.